Monday, May 17, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad: Season 1, Episode 5 “Chapter 5: Tennessee – Exodus” (B+)

This hour was similarly intimate to the one before it, featuring just five characters on their slow journey west. For as much as Ridgeway earns a living by defending the institution of slavery and attempts to demean his prisoners by referring to them as “it,” he is surprisingly interested in conversation with his most troublesome target, who took multiple opportunities to try to run away whenever they arose. He must have a sense that Cora could be his intellectual equal, even though he would never see her that way, and he appreciated that she took the chance to run when she had it even though it was an annoyance for him to have to pursue her. He had far less tolerance for the white man who insulted his notion of the Great Spirit and angrily defended his right to fulfill his needs rather than do his job. He puts full trust in Homer, even giving him the keys not as a test but to lighten his own workload, certain that he would never run off or do anything to betray him because he chains himself at night to be able to sleep. Cora got to see what a different form of resistance was in Jasper, who had decided what was worth fighting for now and how he was going to be at peace with it all, even though a moment of prayer is what ultimately led to the end of his life. Chaining Cora to his dead body after her latest escape attempt was a cruel way of trying to break her spirit, something she seems determined not to give up.

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